This is an ongoing series running through May to compliment the twice weekly meditation sessions that I will be hosting on YouTube (the videos have now been moved to my Vimeo page). If you have any questions, please contact me.
Regardless what we are meditating on, sometimes a strong emotion will arise. The practice of just noting the emotion and returning to the object of meditation, for example the breath, can feel like a tug of war between your attempt to meditate and the emotion’s pull for your attention. From my experience the force and strength of the emotion starts to demand a lot of my attention.
My first reaction is to relax into that demanding. Keep coming back to the object of meditation, and be patient with the seemingly never ending demands. Note the emotion, perhaps give it a name if that helps, and return to the object of meditation using awareness and mindfulness - and again, and again, and again. In doing that we are choosing not to engage in the emotion while also not denying its presence, and at the same time building patience with it.
If the content of the emotion is such that it is bothering you too much I offer two suggestions.
- Stop the meditation and go and do what you need to do to take care of yourself - time to yourself, speak with someone, take a walk, take a bath, journal. You will know what to do.
- Make the emotion the object of meditation. Get to know the emotion. Become more intimate with it.
Through working with option “2.” one can start to break down the separateness between oneself and the emotion, and start to familiarize yourself with how the emotion looks, feels, and moves through your mind. The steps that I offer here are for guidance. Use the framework that the steps suggest as a start for your own imagination and how you can engage with the emotion.
- Start to watch the emotion. Do not become involved with it, instead have a detached observation in the same way that you might have if you were watching a movie.
- Ask questions as to what the emotion looks like - does it have a shape? Does it have a colour? Is it solid, a gas, a liquid? Is it fixed or changing?
- Watch it and see where it goes - are there moments of intensity, are there moments of quiet?
- Is there one thing that you can call “the emotion”, or is it a changing stream of experiences?
- If you want to explore what is behind the emotion, ask a question such as, “what do you have to tell me?” Don’t force an answer, just be patient and see if an answer emerges.
- If it becomes difficult to hold the emotion and the questions, go back to the breath, stabilize the mind, and then return to the emotion.
There are no rights or wrongs, or correct answers to these explorations. Just allow the answers to come in their own way, and in their own time. But through this I can get to know my mind and my emotions better and through that they become more workable. The emotions are no longer so much of a stranger to me and with that and in time, with more familiarization, have less of a pull on me…or I simply catch myself a little bit earlier when the emotion grabs me.